Joseph Castaldo’s Graphic Score

Castaldo_portraitsJoseph Castaldo (1927-2000) was a composer of classical music and a teacher of music theory and composition.  He was a talented musician, but at the very early age of 11, he had begun to compose his own pieces and after he returned to the United States after a stint in the United States Army Band at the end of World War II, he had determined to focus on composition. In addition to his compositions, he is known for his service to the institution that became the University of the Arts.

The bulk of Castaldo’s collection consists of scores to his compositions.  I am not a musician, but Kislak has a number of pretty extraordinary music collections and I have seen my fair share of scores.  However, as I was foldering away, I came across a score that looked positively different.  I went to my colleague, Sam Sfirri, who IS a musician; and he gave my colleague and me a quick tutorial on “graphic scores,” a moment the three of us, in our nearly empty Covid office, remember as a return to our more typical collegial collaboration at work.

If you want to make your own graphic score, the Bicester School in the UK, created this excellent homework assignment, in which they describe a graphic score as a score that “gives a PICTURE OF SOUND using shapes and symbols to represent different sounds used.” Sam explained that this sort of score gives enormous interpretive freedom to the performers; if given to performers as-is; or in this case, served as pre-compositional material for the composer himself.

Joseph Castaldo’s graphic score is called “Protogenesis,” and was written for Fels Planetarium in 1973.  What is particularly fun is that the collection includes a description score, a graphic score, and a full, more traditional score, allowing the researcher to see all phases of Castaldo’s work. Below are three examples of the first page … of the description score, the graphic score, and the final score:

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I quite liked the graphic score of page 8 (bar 41): here are all three versions of “Protogenesis,” again:

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One response to “Joseph Castaldo’s Graphic Score”

  1. The one-line drawing in the middle of the top photo is of Leopold Stokowski. It was done by Philadelphia artist Ben Wolf.

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